Legislation focuses on early learning ‘gaps’

Photo courtesy of Madison 365

Research demonstrates that African-American and Hispanic/Latino children enter kindergarten an average of 7-12 months behind in reading skills and 9-10 months behind in math skills, with even larger gaps existing for low-income students, according to the National Institute for Early Education.

Florida Senate Bill 1148, filed by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Duval), focuses on early learning. It would require the Division of Early Learning of the Department of Education to analyze solutions to help close early learning gaps for children in the child welfare system.

It would require the division to report its findings and recommendations to the governor and Legislature by a specified date, providing an effective date.

The gap refers to differences in achievement that are significant and persistent among different groups of students.
There are disparities in test scores among different student groups when measuring opportunity gaps through standardized tests.

The education systems are impacted by these persistent and expanding gaps as students progress through their K-12 education.

The National Research Council asserts that “academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.”

It is often the case that children of different backgrounds have different levels of skills, which impedes their chances of social mobility.

Sen. Bean contends that we must work together to get child welfare and education agencies in more states —and eventually every state —gathering data on how children are performing. “We must not let any of our children remain invisible or go without the help they need to receive a quality education,” said Marian Wright Edelman with the Children’s Defense Fund.

SB 1148 wants every child to succeed. It is aiming to do this by getting help from the Division of Early Learning of the Department of Education to get more insight and data on children in the welfare system, and to see what they can do to help each child get to where they need to be in the education system.

Bean says it is evident that the opportunity gap is a serious issue. This impacts not only the academic success of a child during grade school, but also their chances of graduating high school and going on to college. They also have fewer chances of employment once they reach adulthood.

Children’s achievement gaps can be reduced when parents receive resources and early intervention is undertaken, Bean said.